On October 24th, President Obama released a statement calling for changes in standardized testing in America’s schools. Although the details have yet been released, it is encouraging the Obama Administration acknowledges that standardized testing has overextended its purpose.
As a veteran of public education, such news is profoundly welcomed. Over the past 20 years, going back to the Clinton Administration and Goals 2000, through the Bush Administration and No Child Left Behind, to the Obama Administration and Race to the Top, public education has increasingly become burdened by the increase of testing. With it came increased scrutiny and accountability on states, local school districts, and individual teachers. Although the results of these initiatives have been mixed, all now agree there is no correlation between increased standardized tests and increased student achievement.
I firmly believe the first step is to eliminate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balance Assessment. Being an educator in a state that mandated that all districts implement the PARCC test, I can speak directly to the negative impact it created. PARCC is a computer-based assessment. The drain on school district technology resources both in the setting-up phase, which began in January, through the implementation phase, the months of March and May, were profound. The length of the tests, both in March and May were extremely disruptive to school schedules and classroom routines.
Many educators across the state questioned the developmental appropriateness of PARCC, in terms of format, length and difficulty. Although PARCC has announced there will only be one test instead of two in 2016, overall test time has not been decreased significantly. In addition, if the purpose of standardized testing is to inform and improve teaching and learning, PARCC is not the answer.
First round of tests were completed by April 1st and the second round by the end of May. It is mid November, and my school district just now received the results for our high school students; hardly timely if we are to use the information to improve instruction. We have no idea when elementary will receive the results. Given states can’t agree nationwide what curricular content is worth knowing, and given a growing number of states have opted out of Common Core standards and/or PARCC or Smarter Balance Assessment, more and more educators question the validity or purpose of a “one size fits all” test.
Let’s band together and work with our state legislators and create assessments that reflect what we as states have committed to in terms of standards-based teaching and learning. In addition, at the local level, let’s support individual school districts to develop and utilize assessment practices that align with instruction, provide timely feedback, and create partnerships of learning with teachers and students.
Dr. Vicky Tusken is the Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for the DeKalb Community Unit School District in Illinois. She also teaches at Northern Illinois University as an Adjunct for the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations.